Transiting the Panama Canal (part three), Balboa and the Pacific Ocean, Panama

After crossing under the Centennial Bridge we approached the first of three Pacific locks that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

After crossing under the Centennial Bridge we approached the first of three Pacific locks that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Our first blog post on “Transiting the Panama Canal” took us from the Caribbean Sea entrance to the Panama Canal at Colon, Panama, and through the Gatun locks; the second followed our journey across Gatun Lake in very inclement weather.  This third blog post takes us down through the three Pacific Ocean-side-of-the-canal locks (84 feet, or 25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean. 

In the photograph, above, on the far right hand side, the new channel for the new locks (about 50% longer and wider than the 1914 locks) is visible.  Built by the Panamanians, the new locks will accommodate the newer, massive freighters for the first time — scheduled for opening in April 2016.

Approaching the single Pedro Miguel lock that will begin our descent to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the single Pedro Miguel lock that will begin our descent to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water level in the Pedro Miguel lock was lowered and the gates opened, the "mules" pull us into Miraflores Lake; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water level in the Pedro Miguel lock was lowered and the gates opened, the “mules” pull us into Miraflores Lake; Panama Canal, Panama

One of the four "Panama Canal mules" (electric locomotives) that pulled us into, through, and out of the Pedro Miguel lock; Panama Canal, Panama

One of the four “Panama Canal mules” (electric locomotives) that pulled us into, through, and out of the Pedro Miguel lock; Panama Canal, Panama

Beautiful geometric patterns of the adjacent lock gates holding water; Panama Canal, Panama

Beautiful geometric patterns of the adjacent lock gates holding water; Panama Canal, Panama

Being positioned, by the "mules", in the first of two Miraflores locks (along with one of the Canal's tugboats); Panama Canal, Panama

Being positioned, by the “mules”, in the first of two Miraflores locks (along with one of the Canal’s tugboats); Panama Canal, Panama

Looking aft from the stern of our ship towards the Centennial Bridge and the Caribbean Sea, from the first Miraflores lock, as the water is drained; Panama Canal, Panama

Looking aft from the stern of our ship towards the Centennial Bridge and the Caribbean Sea, from the first Miraflores lock, as the water is drained; Panama Canal, Panama

Looking forward from the bow of our ship as we get snuggled into the second Miraflores lock; Panama Canal, Panama

Looking forward from the bow of our ship as we get snuggled into the second Miraflores lock; Panama Canal, Panama

Watching the water drain from the lock by gravity -- no pumps -- lowering us down to the level of the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Watching the water drain from the lock by gravity — no pumps — lowering us down to the level of the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water levels were equalized, the gates are electrically opened and we prepare for the final "pull" from the "mules"; Panama Canal, Panama

After the water levels were equalized, the gates are electrically opened and we prepare for the final “pull” from the “mules”; Panama Canal, Panama

The tugboat that shared these locks with us steams out towards the Pacific Ocean under its own power; Panama Canal, Panama

The tugboat that shared these locks with us steams out towards the Pacific Ocean under its own power; Panama Canal, Panama

Disconnected from the "mules", we proceed under our own power towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Disconnected from the “mules”, we proceed under our own power towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal has been called the “Greatest Shortcut” in history.  Prior to its completion, the added distance for ships sailing from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn at the lower tip of South America versus through the Panama Canal was 8,000 miles (12,874 kilometers).

Sailing at dusk towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Sailing at dusk towards the Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

A telescopic, twilight view of some of Panama City's new high rises overlooking the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

A telescopic, twilight view of some of Panama City’s new high rises overlooking the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal has been described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and the greatest engineering achievement since the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

As dusk turned to night, we sailed under the Bridge of the Americas and into the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

As dusk turned to night, we sailed under the Bridge of the Americas and into the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

This was a truly remarkable day.  Breakfast in the Caribbean Sea, riding up through the locks to witness nature’s fury with the thunderstorms on Gatun Lake after lunch on the lake, and then descending the southern locks to cross under the Bridge of the Americas and dine on the Pacific after sunset.  The journey generated a toast that evening to the foresight, leadership, perseverance. engineering brilliance and hard work of countless French and American leaders over decades (1880 to the canal opening in 1914), and a memorial toast to the thousands who died in the jungle while helping build this amazing transcontinental canal.

6 thoughts on “Transiting the Panama Canal (part three), Balboa and the Pacific Ocean, Panama

    • We lined up with the pilot on board to get into position before the breakwater around 7:30 a.m. From the breakwater to out into the Pacific Ocean (after the Bridge of the Americas) was about 11 hours. The first lock entry to the sixth lock exit was about 9 hours, a little slower than normal, as the ship transiting ahead of us had a man overboard (very unusual!) and that slowed things down for all of us behind them about 1 – 1.5 hours.

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  1. Our late Wild Iris neighbor Ken Bailey was an engineer for the Bechtel Corporation that helped build the Panama Canal. He with a caregiver visited the Panama Canal in his late 80’s to see once again what he helped build. Best wishes, Shar Wallander

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  2. We had dinner last night at Elizabeth’s home with Selma and Malcolm. Jaime’s brother is a big shot in the group that is making the canal wider/deeper to handle big ships. We got a complete explanation about how the new mechanics will work to move water. Also instead of the water being dumped in the ocean, it will be recycled. Monica R. Salusky

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  3. It’s fascinating to see the locks in operation. Interestingly, they look too narrow to allow a large ship through. Obviously not, tho…

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